Jumping The Shark ★★★★ Upstairs at the Gatehouse | March 7 - 12, 2023

When five strangers sign up for a workshop in sitcom writing, they learn more than comedy's tricks of the trade. The first act of David Cantor and Michael Kingsbury's Jumping The Shark is a little slow as we meet the characters and get our lecture on the art of sitcom writing, but the second act when the students act out their sitcom ideas is both hilarious and heartwarming. The whole cast do a super job of creating their characters, from Jack Trueman's dense and friendless Dale to Harry Visinoni's angry and anarchistic Morgan. We immediately recognise and are curious about these people, their back stories and what has brought them to this class. As the instructor, Frank, David Schaal hits just the right note of pedagogical condescension and genuine interest in his students. Robin Sebastian as Gavin, an out-of-work actor who has really signed up for the seminar hoping to get a part in Frank's new television series, is delightful as the self-promoting sycophantic thespian. And, in the second act, he displays some great comic chops when he assumes a variety of characters in the student writing efforts. Sebastian is well matched by Sarah Moyle, the apparently timid housewife whom it turns out can stand up for herself. It is great fun to see her deal with her issues in her script for a sitcom. Jasmine Armfield as Amy, the student who will teach the teacher something, is suitably cool and intriguing, and while her secret doesn't really come as a surprise, the resolution of the issue is nicely understated. One of the rules of good sitcom writing is the creation of character, and the strength of this piece is its interesting people, plus a very amusing premise which produces some deeply funny moments. For a thoroughly enjoyable night out that might send you home to write your own sitcom, don't miss Jumping The Shark.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Robert Armstrong.

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